Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


OIL TANKER "PRESTIGE"

Letter from David Jamieson MP to the Chairman

  You will be aware of the recent sinking of the oil tanker "Prestige" off the north-west coast of Spain.

  The Transport Council has been asked at short notice to approve Conclusions on 6 December put forward by the Presidency in response to the accident and its consequences.

  The proposed Conclusions focus largely on implementation of existing legislative measures agreed following the sinking of the oil tanker "Erika" in December 1999 and invite the Commission to present further proposals where appropriate.

  The UK is generally supportive of the proposals contained in the draft Conclusions and will consider them sympathetically.

  Normal legislative scrutiny procedures will of course apply on any formal proposals emerging from the Conclusions which require new legislation. In advance of that I thought you would like to see this text as soon as possible.

  I am sorry to give you such very short notice, but I hope you will understand this is a very fast moving situation and we have had very little notice of these conclusions ourselves.

  We will of course let you know next week the outcome of the Council's discussion of this issue.

4 December 2002

Letter from David Jamieson MP to the Chairman

  When I wrote to you on 4 December about the draft Conclusions for Transport Council which had been prepared in response to the accident to the oil tanker Prestige I promised to let you have a note of the outcome of the Council's discussion on the issue.

  The Council produced 20 Conclusions of which a copy is attached for reference (not printed). Many of the ideas also appear in the Commission's Communication of 3 December which is the subject of an Explanatory Memorandum currently being drafted and which will be with you shortly. In general the Council expressed an intention to seek faster and further measures on maritime safety. In the most significant Conclusions, the Council:

    —  Invited the Commission to present a proposal for phasing out single hull tankers (the Commission was going to do this anyway); it expressed the hope that this proposal would be adopted no later than 1 July;

    —  Agreed that the heaviest grades of oil shall only be transported in double hulls—this to be achieved through the voluntary action of member states;

    —  Invited Commission proposals for more effective port inspection; and

    —  Urged member states to identify places of refuge for ships, to reinforce their mechanisms for the control of maritime traffic along their coasts and to co-ordinate new proposals for IMO-protected sea areas.

  At council we gave a general welcome to the Presidency approach and were able to accept the Conclusions. We did suggest that there needed to be proper analysis of whether sufficient double hull capacity was available. The Commission undertook to make their assessment available. We reaffirmed our support for the efforts being undertaken in the International Maritime Organisation to establish a supplementary compensation fund to benefit the victims of oil pollution and stressed that measures on protecting EU coastlines should be consistent with the international law of the sea.

16 December 2002

Letter from the Chairman to Mr David Jamieson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

  Thank you for your letter dated 16 December reporting the draft conclusions for the 6 December Transport Council which had been prepared in response to the accident of the oil tanker Prestige. I am responding to this letter in the light of your Explanatory Memorandum 15301/02 dated 19 December. Both papers were considered by Sub-Committee B at its meeting on 13 January 2003.

  We agree with the line that your Department is taking. Much of what the Commission seeks is unexceptionable, but until some of the newer proposals are refined and supported by an appropriate regulatory impact assessment (RIA), it is difficult to give the green light to the entire package of ideas wrapped up in the Commission's communication. We agree that there is value in urging Member States to accelerate the implementation of the already agreed measures adopted after the Erika II disaster. We are less convinced that some of the additional measures proposed by the Commission should be rushed into, and we would like to see a lot more evidence about the costs and means of implementing a ban on the use of single hull oil tankers to carry heavy fuels.

  We also share your concern abut the Commission's enthusiasm for the creation of a separate EU fund of

1 billion if efforts in the IMO do not bear fruit. We are glad that your interventions at the Transport Council secured a moderation of the language in the Council conclusions. But this is clearly something that will need to be watched if the diplomatic conference in May 2003 is to be steered successfully to the conclusion that would meet the interests of all participants.

  Under the circumstances, we intend to maintain the Scrutiny reserve on this document until such time as individual proposals covered by the Communication are presented and properly supported by RIAs.


 
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